How To See Ubud In A Day

Monday, 17 October 2016

I’m really not sure why but we only booked one full day in Ubud but I fell in love with the place as soon as we arrived so I needed to be sure to pack as much into our one day there as possible. With a little bit of research and some good planning we managed it just fine.
Getting Around: Hire A Taxi Driver
I highly recommend finding a taxi driver that you like and booking in a day tour with them. We were lucky to have an evening to find someone but there are taxi drivers sitting on the streets so you should be able to find someone and go straight from there. Our driver was friendly, knowledgeable and spoke good English so we agreed a price (400,000, about £25) and arranged for him to pick us up from our hotel the next morning. Top Tip: Don't be scared to barter with them; we very easily got to that price from the 700,000 he asked for originally.

He drove us wherever we wanted and each time, he parked up and came along with us as a tour guide would. We were able to spend as much time in each place as we wanted and we also learnt a lot from him, chatting about Balinese culture, his knowledge of the temples and religious beliefs and hearing about his family and their life here. He also turned out to be a pretty good photographer!
Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest
The forest is home to hundreds of Balinese long tail monkeys and they are able to run around freely and do exactly what they want; that's what makes it such an amazing experience. It's a pound or two entrance fee and whilst they get fed by the staff, if you are brave, you can buy your own bananas to feed the monkeys although beware and try to avoid eye contact with them. Also keep an eye on things like glasses and cameras, as they often grab anything they can get their hands on. Our driver told us there are different monkey 'gangs' and they can be very territorial with each other so we saw a lot of fighting but we also saw lots of playing, sharing food and looking after one another too.
Buy a Sarong at The Art Market
I'm not sure why it's called the art market because we didn't see any art. The market is five minutes from the monkey forest and whilst it's small, it's buzzing with people and full of vibrant colours. We stopped off to buy a sarong as many temples in Bali require you to wear one but stayed to look around after; I love a good market. It's not essential to buy your own sarong as most temples provide them but for just under £5 for two (and those were the expensive, quality ones), they made for a great souvenir as well as being useful! Top Tip: Although its not worth a trip of its own, if you visit the market, you may as well pop into the Ubud Royal Palace as it is located just across the road.
Have Lunch at Cafe Wayan
We stopped off at Café Wayan for lunch as it looked pretty from the outside and had a good, varied menu of both Indonesian and a good selection of western food. I decided on nasi goring and each component was delicious, I especially loved the sweetcorn fritter; just the right amount for lunch after an active morning. There were many parts to this place, it made me want to get up and explore. All of it is very open with no walls again, just a roof over the top. For two mains, a milkshake, a beer and a bottle of water we paid around £15
Purification at Tirta Empul
This one is a little further out and about half an hour in a car from the monkey forest but it was definitely worth it as this temple was our favourite stop of the day. Tirta Empul means ‘holy spring water’ and people flock here for its purification baths as they believe that the holy water is able to cleanse the mind as well as the body. This is where the sarongs got their first use as you are forbidden to enter without one. The main attraction inside is the large pool with 13 spouts of water flowing into it. People queue to get a chance to pray under the springs and wash away their problems. It's mainly local people who seek purification at the springs although tourists sometimes get involved too. Obviously the place has a certain vibe to it and although we didnt get in the pools, we both still left feeling very spiritual. Top Tip: Think about bringing spare clothing if you want to get wet.
Have a Romantic Dinner at Mozaic
When I researched Ubud, this restaurant came up over and over again. Mozaic is Ubud's awnser to fine dining and a pretty amazing foodie experience. There are four menus to choose from: a six course, an eight course, a surprise or vegetarian. We opted for the 8 course grand menu which cost 1,000,000 IDR (about £60 each) and also included canapés, amuse boushe and petition fours to finish. Think a gastronomic feast outside with tea lights lining the path to your table, lights hanging down from the trees and looking up to the treetops and starry sky above. Top Tip - Book in advance and book it early, we were there for over three hours.

A Whirlwind Stay At The Ubud Village Resort, Bali

Monday, 10 October 2016

When we checked into our hotel after a five hour flight from Hong Kong, we thought we'd arrived in paradise; the memory of arriving at that hotel is one that I'll remember for a long time. We walked up candle lit stairs to reception; no walls, just a roof which was pretty amazing considering the hotel is built in the middle of an Indonesian forest. Once we had established that we were not here on a honeymoon, just on holiday, Andrew got on with filling in the forms. I was still a little bit overwhelmed and just needed some time to take everything in; the smell of incense, the Balinese music playing in the background and the sun setting over the treetops. And then the excitement hit me, if this was only the reception, what on earth was our room going to look like?!

We weren’t actually staying in a room, we had booked a garden villa and neither of us knew what to expect, we've always stayed in hotels before. With dinner reservations to get to we quickly hopped on the back of a golf buggy and were driven through along the little forest paths, twisting and turning around corners through the forest until we arrived outside a wooden door, shut with a padlock.

We dropped off our bags and went straight back out so fast forward to the next morning, we woke up in our four poster bed to the sounds of the forest and muted sunlight behind the curtains. I was so excited to finally get a proper look at the place, I jumped straight out of bed and pulled back the curtains to reveal the sun shining down into our little garden...

and reflecting off of the pool; Our own private pool, all to ourselves. Complete with two sun loungers, a day bed and a table and chairs.

 We were only in Ubud for one full day and we had planned a tour of the town and its temples but after a glimpse of what we had, we agreed to keep our tour as short as possible to give us time to enjoy the villa too. So off we wandered along the forest path in search of breakfast which is served in the hotels restaurant; just through the trees.
Eight thirty and it was already boiling hot so we decided to sit upstairs which had a lovely view over the resort and the women working in the rice paddies next door.  There are only 30 villas at the resort so we hardly saw anyone around apart from then where we were one of three couples at breakfast.

I started my day with a plate of fresh fruit, followed by an open breakfast burrito; my first taste of avocado in weeks and it was delicious!
After breakfast we met our guide ready for a day of adventure in Ubud but more on that in another post.
We were very excited to arrive back at our villa by 2pm giving us loads of time to enjoy it! Being able to spend the afternoon by our private pool was such a luxury; I could mess around with the selfie stick as much as I liked, go back inside if we wanted something and there was even a plug by the daybed so I could charge my phone. Apart from the normal things, for someone with OCD, I loved not having to check where all my stuff was constantly - it didn’t matter where I left my phone or my raybans because Andrew was the only person there and I didn’t have to worry about him stealing them. It meant that I could close my eyes, and fully relax.
After a splash around, and realising that it was our last evening, we decided to have a little explore around the resort; but first we needed to wash off and that meant time for a dip in our huge stone bath in garden at the back of the villa.
By about 5:30 we were ready for a snack and stopped off at little poolside bar for a spot of afternoon tea. We drank red rice tea and ate spring rolls with fried banana fritters for sweets which was just enough to keep us going until dinner. We found the communal pool lined with palm trees and lots of hidden huts dotted around the resort and made our way back to the room to get ready for dinner just as the sun was setting. 
After dinner it was time to go back to our villa for one last time, walking through the forest path to our packlocked gate. The resort had such a relaxed vibe, we fell asleep in the four poster bed to the sound of the birds chirping outside before our next adventure in the morning.. 

Five Amazing Places To Eat In Seminyak, Bali

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Food is a big thing for me, like a real big thing. Trying out new restaurants can become the highlight of my week so obviously it is always a huge part of my travel experience as well. Whenever I visit anywhere, I always do my food research before and continue it whilst I am there. Google is all well and good for full on reviews but Instagram is my number one this sort of thing. I love that you can see exactly what food looks like and what people think of it. I also like to see what photos people post of the actual place, who they are there with and what the vibe is and I get that best through instagram.

We were in Seminyak for five days and of course we ate out a lot. There were so many unique places out there, and as well as some amazing food we had, there were also some pretty incredible locations. Here are a few that stood out for me.
Cafe Organic
I had been following Cafe Organic on instagram for months and fell in love with their colourful and carefree feed. They opened last year and are all about the super foods but whilst what they serve is healthy, it also looks amazing. Five minutes after leaving our resort in a cab, we arrived in instagram heaven. Before we even saw any food; with white wall and a glass store front, inside was full of bright, natural light. The specials were written in coloured chalk on chalk boards, the table tops were white marble and there were cactus scattered around everywhere.

Andrew doesn't do fruit or vegetables so he went for eggs on toast. I ordered a juice and The Acai Coco smoothie bowl which was full of all sorts of berries, passion fruit, mango, oats, granola, coconut, cacao nibs and bee pollen and served in a coconut, obviously. The only issue here was that the service was pretty slow but honestly, that didn't bother us. It was bright, comfortable and air conditioned so we didn't mind sitting there for a bit longer than we would have liked.

The total came to around about £7.50 and for me, it was the perfect healthy afternoon snack. The food was very refreshing in the bali heat and whilst I love a smoothie, eating fruit isn't usually as fun as eating chocolate but here it was; they made it fun. The food looks good and more importantly it tastes good.
 Woo Bar At The W Retreat 
From 4-6, Monday to Thursday, The Woo Bar at the W does two for one signature cocktails plus you get a complimentary pizza so obvs we popped along one afternoon. We spotted two big comfy chairs which was a bit of luck because the place was packed and buzzing with people so we grabbed them and settled down there for a few hours.

I ordered a pretty Peach Strawberry Mojito and Andrew had a Strawberry & Champagne Martini which both looked great when they arrived at our table. They had a little more alcohol in them than I would have liked but that didn't bother Andrew and I loved how fruity mine was; I sat there eating it with a fork when I'd finished my drink. Whilst they were quite expensive for Bali at around £7 each, living in London meant that for us, it was rather cheap. Along with our cocktails we got our complimentary cheese pizza, a duo portions of truffle fries and I ordered chocolate milkshake afterwards as well. It was poolside pizza and chips but it was good! The fries were my favourite.

Moving on to the reason that we actually went there in the first place - the sunset! We had heard that The W hotel is the place to be and by 6 o'clock, we agreed. Sunset anywhere along that beach would have been pretty but the palm trees, lanterns and the famous W around the hotel made for an extra special silhouette.

Whilst I'd been following Cafe Organic for a long time, I only spotted this little gem on Instagram once we were out there, then when we were out, we spotted it very close to where we were staying so we went back for lunch the next day. Obviously, the next day there was a queue outside but we were happy to wait because everyone online seemed to be raving about it plus we were pretty sure that we were going it love it after reading through the menu. I think you'd agree #BrunchGoals.

According to their Facebook, it is supposed 'represents the iconic café culture of Australia' but for us Brits, it had a very Shoreditch vibe so we felt right at home too. There was all sorts of delicious brunch style things on the menu from banana brioche french toast to berries & bavarian cream but after eight days away, I was craving a portion of my beloved avocado toast which I ordered on gluten free bread. I love how easy it is to get gluten and dairy free in Bali, its so readily available.

My smashed avocado arrived with semi-dried cherry tomatoes, popped capers and feta and seriously, it was so good. I wish we had found out about this place a little sooner into our trip as we would both have definitely have come back and ordered the same thing all over again. With brunch, I had a mango madness smoothie, made with their house made nut milk.

Whilst I was happy, Andrew also loved this place because it has a good selection of meat dishes as well. He went for the dirty burger and thanks to instagram, I knew he was in for a bit of a treat but I just couldn't pass up the avocado opportunity although admittedly when it arrived I was a little bit jealous.
So these next two definitely deserve a mention but it was was totally dark by the time we got to both of them so you're going to have to bear with me when it comes to photos.
Breeze At The Samaya Hotel
Breeze was a very last minute decision for us, we had spotted it on Google before we left and at the time, decided not to book because the menu was very western and to be honest, I thought it was going to be a bit gimmicky, playing on being at the sea front and not actually being very good. We were on our way back from Tanah Lot Temple and didn't have any dinner plans, it was getting late just decided we'd try Breeze because after a week of eating rice (and loving it might I add), Andrew wanted some western food and we knew we could get it there.

When we arrived though, my mind changed instantly. All I'd seen of it before was the beach front but as we walked though the hotel to their pool and dining area, I fell in love with the place. It was dark by this time so sadly no sunset views but instead we had candle lit walk ways, lanterns and fairy lights winding up the trees.

We originally wanted to sit right at the sea front, like the photos I'd seen but the waves were really loud and over powering so we moved back to a little candle lit hut. As it was so dark, I didnt get any good photos of where we sat but I found this on Trip Adviser (Thanks Derekneo21) and it shows exactly where we sat.
Here are the few that I got

Bambu was our last night and probably our favourite meal in Bali! It was pretty surreal being dropped off on the busy road to then turn into Bambu and be greeted by candle lit stepping stones across to a restaurant floating in the middle of a pool. Big thanks to TripCanvas for this one:
Whilst the setting was super romantic, the food was all delicious as well from the ceviche I had for a starter to the amazing seafood noodle both we had for a main and even the steamed coconut rice we had as a side. We couldnt find the menu for this place anywhere online so maybe they change the food quite often but I would 100% recommend giving it a visit if you're in the area! 

Why We Loved Booking With Kuoni

Monday, 3 October 2016

After a very disappointing trip to our local Thomas Cook, I went home and spoke and to my parents about my travel aspirations for the year. We soon realised that the trip that I wanted to do, was two parts of the three part trip they did for their honeymoon, so my dad’s booking advice was greatly appreciated and he told me straight away to try Kuoni.

Neither Andrew or I had ever heard of it before and had no idea what he was talking about but after some research I realised that they are a luxury travel agents and that the huge shop (that didn’t really look like a shop,) that we often walk past in Westfield was actually one of their stores. The people working at desks in the middle of a shopping centre soon made sense, so the next time we went shopping; we popped in. Long story short, we fell in love with the way Kuoni did things and booked our trip there and then. After arriving back last week having had the most incredible time, we decided that we will definitely be using them again in the future and here’s why:
The Booking Experience
They made the actual booking of the holiday a whole experience of its own. After my dad mentioned it, we started spotted stores everywhere. The Stratford one, where we booked, had a glass front and high ceilings, it was very spacious and the design had a muted luxury to it. As we sat down, they asked if we would like a drink were totally surprised when they passed us the menu which said that everything was complementary from the coffee to the wine so we ordered two glasses of champagne.
We left not only excited that we had arranged our holiday but like we had had a lovely afternoon with a friend, bringing me on you my next point…
The Staff
We booked with Shaina (who has sadly has left Stratford since) and we would happily to book all of our future holidays with her if we had the chance. She genuinely sounded just as excited as we were about our trip and had great knowledge about our destinations having experienced most of them herself. She was patient and friendly as we looked through countless different prices, changing dates and adding on hotels along the way. We got random emails from her through the months saying ’98 days until Hong Kong’ which was amazing and she even sent us over a list of all her favourite things to do out there.

This was in huge contrast to the diabolical service we received in Thomas Cook when the woman decided to call up and get us a price for a 3* hotel that we had not even seen photos of and then loudly huffed and puffed saying she can't keep bothering her team for prices when we weren’t happy to accept the one she’d picked.
Hotel Choice
I always find it a bit daunting going into a travel agents and booking a hotel from their books but Shaina had been to visit most of them with the company so again, she had great knowledge on the vibe of each hotel. Along with that, she gave us loads of time to look through the brochure and use her computer to do some research and look at more photos.

Apart from that, I needn’t have worried with Kuoni in the first place as each of their hotels are handpicked and when we arrived at each of the three hotels, we were amazing where we were staying. We had only picked mid-range prices but two out of three of them had private swimming pools!

 Private Transfers
This is something we completely forgot to ask about at the time when we booked. We asked about it, a few weeks later when we realised but they had already included our five different transfers in the price. Each time, we were picked up in a private car, and more often than not, with a Kuoni representative, as well as a driver. We found this really useful and spent most of the journeys scribbling down their recommendations in a notebook. As locals, they were all very knowledgeable and we ended up doing most of the things they suggested because they gave us some great ideas.
Added Extras
If you’re going for a special occasion, make sure you let them know! It ended up, that they date which worked for us both to go actually included the 16th September, which was our 7 year anniversary. We thought Shaina was just making more conversation and didn’t realise that she took any notice of us but apparently she did. When we arrived in Hong Kong, they offered us a free bottle of Champagne to celebrate and also when we arrived in our last hotel, they brought us a cake! Yum.
Plane Seats
We had 4 flights on our trip, all economy obviously because we’re not rich. Anyway, we were super pleased that they were able to book our seats when we booked the holiday so I requested an aisle seat for each flight, which I got. Now I don’t know if this is a coincidence but on one of our flights we were the front of economy so we had all of the leg room and for the other three, we were the row behind, so I’m thinking they would have placed us at the front but those seats were already taken so we got the next row. Just something to think about!
Both Hong Kong and Bali are amazing places but Kuoni added a whole extra dimension to our holiday with some incredible hotels and just how easy and luxurious they made everything for us. 

Have you booked with them before?

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